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Archive for May, 2009

Asperger’s Syndrome and Page Count Statistics

May 29th, 2009

I took a few days off reading and it was wonderful. I’ve been able to clear my head and, after 3 days, I’m ready to roll again.

I’ve chosen Look Me In The Eye to read next. It’s by John Elder Robison, the brother of Augusten Burroughs. Robison has Asperger’s syndrome, a less severe version of autism. It’s a memoir. I’m very excited.

This will be my last “regular” book for a couple weeks because I have a couple computer books en route about MySQL databases. I’ll write more about that in the coming weeks, my recent fascination with data storage and retrieval and all the neat little things I’ve been using databases for lately, ranging from baseball statistics to tracking my daughters cellphone usage. Good stuff. And she’s grounded.

This past week, since I haven’t been reading, I’ve been thinking a lot about reading. I’ve been looking at a few different aspects of my reading so far. Something that I track, but don’t show on the website, are my ratings. I rate each and every book on a 0-10 scale. I also track the number of pages and a rough estimation of word count based on a sample page.

But I started getting curious about certain statistics, mainly if there was any correlation between the size of the book and the rating it received. Would it be more likely that a smaller book would get a better rating because I could read it faster, retain more information, and the idea that smaller books might be more focused on an individual subject, and thus was chosen more carefully? Or would larger books get higher ratings? After all, I’m not going to tackle a longer book unless I know for sure that I’m going to enjoy it throughout, and give it a more analytical inspection before I purchase. Or, because it’s a longer book, I dive into it with more dedication, knowing it will require more commitment than previous books, and in turn, have an emotional buy-in before I even begin reading. I couldn’t see myself spending 12 hours during a given week on a certain book, finish it, and then say, “that was a piece of crap.”

So I decided to take my ratings and the page count, and stick it into a formula called Pearson’s Correlation Coefficient. This formula can measure the correlation between two data sets and tell you how much correlation there is. I had a small sample size, only 25 books, but I plugged in the numbers anyway. The “score” ranges from -1.0 to 1.0, with zero being no correlation and as you move to either side of zero, you get closer to having a correlation (that was very crude but I’m not a mathematician). A -1.0 score would mean as the page count decreases, the rating increases, and a +1.0 would mean as page count increases, rating increases. Everything in between shows a smaller and smaller correlation between the two sets of numbers. If you were to plot these numbers on a graph, you would see the points forming a shape going upwards, left to right. The opposite for a negative correlation.

So I’ve described, roughly, correlation (to the best of my ability). All this only to tell you that there was no correlation at all between the length of the books and the ratings I’ve given them. My Pearson’s score was 0.27 which is no correlation at all. And on a graph it looks like a totally random placement of data points creating no shape at all. X is my rating, and Y is page count.


Based on the numbers, I like and dislike books big and small, with no pattern either way. Wasn’t that fun?

Now I’m going to learn more about Asperger’s syndrome. Laters.

tip: if this wasn’t fun to read, you’re not alone, but reread it anyways while listening to Flaming Lips’ Free Radicals. it will be much better.


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Possible Side Effects

May 25th, 2009

This weekend I started, and finished, Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs. It was much longer than Tribes, but because of the flu I was able to lie in bed for a large part of the holiday weekend and read (as much as you can lie in bed with 4 children). Now I’m faced with choosing a new book and I have a few to choose from that have been sitting around for a bit. I really don’t know what to read next. I’m a few weeks ahead so I may take my time with choosing the next book.


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Tribes – The End

May 22nd, 2009

Tribes was excellent as well as a quick read. It’s time to think about what’s next!


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Tribes, Taking Breaks, and Persuasion

May 21st, 2009

The Wisdom of Crowds was a true bear of a book. The parts that I was able to follow were great. The group experiments, how they apply to groups in general, blahblahblah. It was all good. But then…I started reading a page, looking at the page number, reading a page, looking at the page number. I did this for the last 100 pages at least. Reading for the sake of reading. I realized this, and two quotes bounced around in my head for those last 100 pages, contradictory ones.

“Never read a book through merely because you have begun it.”
- John Witherspoon

“A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”
- Samuel Johnson

In this case, Samuel Johnson, sitting on my right shoulder, was of greater persuasion and I finished the book.

So now begins book #24. I’m way ahead of schedule, and that was the plan. I wanted to get ahead of schedule so that I could take a break and spend a few weeks doing other things, like maybe catching up on some television. But then I finish a book, and usually that last day I’m really starting to think about what book I’m going to tackle next. And that familiar feeling of anticipation starts to build, the desire to end and to begin again.

Today as I waited for my daughter to finish gymnastics I finished the last page of Crowds, placed the book into my bag and in virtually the same motion pulled out Tribes, book #24, by Seth Godin. 40 pages later, roughly 1/4 of the book, I realized that after I finished this one, I’d be almost a full month ahead of schedule. So now may be the time to tackle that history book I bought earlier this year. The 700 page one. And spend June learning about the history of my country. But you never know. I could just take the month off and catch up on The Mentalist. But then Groucho Marx whispers in my ear…

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

Catch you in a few days…

Ever wondered how to make Chocolate Tuxedo Strawberries?

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Wolfram|Alpha – Total Words Read

May 18th, 2009

Thanks to the new “computational knowledge engine” at http://wolframalpha.com, my 22 books, or 6000+ pages, read so far this year equals about 3 million words, based on the average page word-count. That’s a lot of words.

Which leads me to think about the human brain and how much I’m able to actually absorb. Then I start breaking that down into energy consumed, “storage space”, recall, knowledge accrued, and the general neuron activity in my brain that is occurring, but going almost completely unnoticed by me. And then I get a headache.

What do you think the intake of 3 million words (in subjects you pursued) over a 4 1/2 month span would do for you?


Book Thoughts

The Wisdom of Crowds

May 14th, 2009

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. Just when Gilbert was starting to get me all into meditation and insane egocentricity, I thrust myself back into business literature. You know, like Bali, Balance. Patience. I’ll have plenty of time for labeling things from God, then crediting myself for it, later. I have things to write about our friend Elizabeth Gilbert, but that will come later. I rarely write a blog post about one book while reading another, but right now I want to read and writing is just getting in the way!


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Eat. Pray. Love. Done.

May 14th, 2009

Lots of thoughts about this one. I may or may not put them here.

Stay tuned.


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Quick Update – Eat Pray Love

May 10th, 2009

I finished Quirkology obviously, and told myself that since I was a couple weeks ahead I was going to take a little break. Then immediately after that I went downstairs and picked another book to read and began reading. (See obsession post earlier) I read A Sense of Urgency by John P. Kotter. I breezed through that in a couple days and it was good at times. Some books you read you have to be in the mood for. This was one of those “beer-goggle” books, it looked really good at the time, but later, under different circumstances, not so much.

But I was able to get some good ideas about work and pace and urgency and all in all, I’m glad I read it.

So again, I’m very much ahead of schedule but have chosen a book to read that is a no-doubter. It’s Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book has appeared everywhere, but most recently I watched the author’s presentation at the most recent TEDTalk. And it was really good. It even included a Tom Waits anecdote which is a very quick path to my heart. So book #22 is starting and this is beginning of week #20.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s TEDTalk:

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Book #20 – Quirkology and The Obsession

May 4th, 2009

So I decided, because I was ahead of schedule, that I would read a much larger book. So I started that and got about 100 pages in when I decided to start a different book, and that book is Quirkology by Richard Wiseman. I’m going to continue to read both books, the other being a 600-page book on Search Marketing, but only track the main book, or in other words, the weekly book. Some books are meant to be absorbed slowly, as is the case with a 600-page educational text on marketing. I will take my time reading that one, while still maintaining my weekly pace with much more manageable sub-500 page books.

So I started Quirkology yesterday and I’m almost finished with it. I gave it a “casual” glance Sunday afternoon and found myself in no time at all reading about a third of it. It’s good. But a lot of the studies and experiments that are talked about were talked about in a different book I’ve read this year (and published earlier) called Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. I would say that of the 25 or so psychological studies that the book has covered so far, about 10 of them I was already familiar with from Gladwell’s book. So that is a little disappointing.

I should finish this book tomorrow, and be about 20 days ahead of schedule.

20 books in and I’m noticing that this is quickly turning into an obsession. I can’t stop reading, I can’t stop shopping for books, I read with an almost manic fever, the consuming of information, of stories, the feeling of accomplishment. It’s like a drug, the opening of a new book, the creasing of the spine, the consumption and placement of the book on the “finished” shelf (which is becoming rather full).

I have 13 books in my “library” that haven’t been opened yet, that I can’t wait to get to. It’s almost as if I’m reading for the sole purpose of getting to the next one, and not because it’s a numbers game, but because the rate in which I read has dramatically increased, and my ability to retain information is increasing as well, so it’s the need, the thirst for words, for information. My brain is slowly being conditioned in this way. And I like it.

And all it takes is canceling cable and 90 minutes a day. SO worth it. I’ll cover my TV/Movie intake in a later post.

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Finished With Midnight Disease

May 1st, 2009

I breezed through that book fairly quick, not an enjoyable read like I had hoped. I gave it a 5/10. Some passages were really interesting, but they were few and far between.

I’m now 16 days ahead of schedule so this is an opportunity to either take a break, or read a much larger book. I’m going to decided today what to do.

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